Fantastic short reads – the diverse edition

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 Read In One Sitting Theme: ten of the shortest books I’ve read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.

I am tempted to just put comics. Because comics are quick reads and for the most part, entertaining! I’ve instead put together a list of short books/novellas that are easily read in one sitting. I’ve deliberately not included short story collections as I tend to read short story collections over a number of days.

Also, I am defining ‘short books’ as those that are under or just slightly above 200 pages.

Quesadillas – Juan Pablo Villas (158 pages)

It feels wrong to say that this story about a poor family living in a town where there are more cows than people is funny. But it is. It’s weird and clever and absurd.

When the Emperor was Divine – Julie Otsuka (144 pages)

A moving story about a family sent to the Japanese-American internment camps. Heartbreaking.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor (96 pages)

Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor (176 pages)

I already enjoyed reading speculative fiction before reading these books, but I do think it would be a good starting point for anyone looking to dip their toe into this genre, as Okorafor is a brilliant writer and creates wonderful worlds with strong characters that may be a bit more accessible. Highly recommended!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  – Sherman Alexie (230 pages)

230 pages may be pushing it a bit, you think. But this book does include some illustrations so that takes up some space. Also it is written in the voice of a teenaged boy (i.e. easy to read). However, a lot of it is very sad.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (49 pages)

It packs a mighty punch in just a few pages. A must-read for everyone.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow –  Faïza Guène, Sarah Adams (Translator) (179 pages)

Published in 1999, this story features a teenager of Moroccan descent living in France. Her father has returned to Morocco, her mother is illiterate and working at a rat-trap of a motel. And Doria is struggling with her studies and all the usual teenager problems.

The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yōko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translator) (180 pages)

It’s been a while since I’ve read this but I remember it as being a very brilliant and moving story about a young woman who looks after a math professor with a very short-term memory.

The Diving Pool: Three Novellas – Yōko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translation)

What can I say, Ogawa writes so beautifully I have to include another of her books!

Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (183 pages)

Desai writes such gorgeous (and sad) stories about families, this time about a family that has grown apart.

The Lake – Banana Yoshimoto (188 pages)

“But sometimes we encounter people like Nakajima who compel us to remember it all. He doesn’t have to say or do anything in particular; just looking at him, you find yourself face-to-face with the enormousness of the world as a whole. Because he doesn’t try to live in just a part of it. Because he doesn’t avert his gaze.

He makes me feel like I’ve suddenly awakened, and I want to go on watching him forever. That, I think, is what it is. I’m awed by his terrible depths.”

Sad and beautiful. Also, Yoshimoto has written a few other books that are under or around 200 pages like N.P. and Lizard.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid (184 pages)

I recently reread this book and it once again blew me away. To write a story that is pretty much like reading one side of a conversation was unusual and may not work for everyone but I really liked it. The narrator is a Pakistani man speaking to an unidentified American stranger.

The Vegetarian – Han Kang, Deborah Smith (translator) (192 pages)

I know lots of people really liked this book but perhaps because of all the hype I felt a bit disappointed by it. Instead, I preferred her other book, released in English this year, Human Acts, which comes in at 218 pages.

Some diverse books I have yet to read that seem like short reads

(Synopses from Goodreads)

Confession of the Lioness – Mia Couto, David Brookshaw (Translation) (192 pages)

Told through two haunting, interwoven diaries, Mia Couto’s Confession of the Lioness reveals the mysterious world of Kulumani, an isolated village in Mozambique whose traditions and beliefs are threatened when ghostlike lionesses begin hunting the women who live there.

Some Prefer Nettles – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator) (202 pages)

Esi decides to divorce after enduring yet another morning’s marital rape. Though her friends and family remain baffled by her decision (after all, he doesn’t beat her!), Esi holds fast. When she falls in love with a married man—wealthy, and able to arrange a polygamous marriage—the modern woman finds herself trapped in a new set of problems. Witty and compelling, Aidoo’s novel, “inaugurates a new realist style in African literature.”

Changes: A Love Story – Ama Ata Aidoo (208 pages)

Esi decides to divorce after enduring yet another morning’s marital rape. Though her friends and family remain baffled by her decision (after all, he doesn’t beat her!), Esi holds fast. When she falls in love with a married man—wealthy, and able to arrange a polygamous marriage—the modern woman finds herself trapped in a new set of problems. Witty and compelling, Aidoo’s novel, “inaugurates a new realist style in African literature.

Season of Migration to the North – Tayeb Salih, Denys Johnson-Davies (Translator) (176 pages)

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.

Please leave a comment if you have any recommendations for short reads by POC authors!

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Books I loved more than I expected to

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Ten Books I Loved More Than I Thought I Would 

The Dollmaker – Harriette Simpson Arnow

This American classic is a tough read. Almost all the dialogue is written in a Kentucky dialect, which takes some getting used to. And it is bleak. So bleak and poor and desperate. But I loved the main character Gertie, she’s a hard worker, strong-willed and capable.

 

Lab Girl – Hope Jahren

I listened to this as an audiobook – very hesitantly. So far I’ve had success with celebrity-narrated audiobooks, mostly comedians like Aziz Ansari and Amy Pohler. But I wasn’t sure about this one, read by its author who’s a scientist. I started listening, just hoping she wouldn’t sound, well, boring. And instead I was startled by the way she poured so much emotion into her narration. All her passion for her work, for the people she loved, was put into the reading. And I was enthralled.

 

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d – Alan Bradley

It may seem weird to put this 8th book in a series here. But I really didn’t like book 7, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, which took Flavia out of England and into a Canadian boarding school. In book 8, Flavia is back at Buckshaw and things just seem more apt, except of course for the fact that her father is in hospital.

 

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces – Isabel Quintero (my review)

I’ve had mixed success with YA so am always a bit hesitant when picking up a YA book. But this one, this one I just adored. I loved Gabi. What a wonderful feisty character.

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

Another nonfiction read that took me by surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 comics

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 All about the visuals: Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels/Comics or Ten Comics on My TBR or Top Ten Favorite Picture Books

I’ve read my fair share of comics and so narrowing it down to just ten isn’t easy as there are so many good ones out there. I know that many of you are probably going to have lots of these in your lists too. But that’s because they are just SO AWESOME.

Persepolis – Marjane Sartrapi

I have to credit Persepolis for being the first graphic novel I ever personally bought. I bought The Complete Persepolis before I moved to the US so that’s about 8 years ago.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye – Sonny Liew

Probably the most successful graphic novel to come out of Singapore (Publisher Weekly named it one of the best comics of 2016). Sonny Liew has done lots of work before this, like collaborating with Gene Luen Yang on Shadow Hero, doing illustrations for Wonderland, Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility etc. But this is very much his own work, his story, and a complex intriguing one at that.

Saga – Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Perhaps the best ongoing comic series out there. An inter-planetary love story, an impossible child, an exploration of worlds and racism of sorts.

Ms Marvel – G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona

I just adore Kamala Khan. I love that there is such a character out there – a young Muslim girl fighting crime and all the other responsibilities of a teenager as well as her conservative but loving family.

Monstress –  Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda 

It’s dark, it’s complex and rich in both its storyline and its breathtakingly beautiful illustrations. I cannot wait to see what else they come up with.

 

 

 

The Sandman series – Neil Gaiman 

In my opinion, this is Neil Gaiman at his best. First of all, the Endless! Death! Dream! (Yes I did name Death before Dream because I just adore her. Dream can be a bit too mopey sometimes). And all those fantastic and unique side characters, from those who serve Dream, to all those dreamers and storytellers and creatures. This is what storytelling is about. This is what comics are about.

Sunny – Taiyo Matsumoto

I don’t read much manga but I do adore this series set in a home for down and out kids. Unlike most manga, which is more fantastical and strange, this is more of the ‘slice of life’ kind that I appreciate. Some of the kids are orphans but many of them are from broken homes or dysfunctional families – it isn’t really said. So there’s an air of sadness throughout. The kids are well taken care of but they are fully aware that they are different from the other kids at school.

Squirrel Girl – Ryan North

It’s all about the footnotes! It’s just SO MUCH FUN. And I absolutely adore Doreen!

Lumberjanes –  Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen and Noelle Stevenson

What great characters. The friendship! The camaraderie! The things that go bump in the night! I just adore Lumberjanes.

Shinya Shokudo – Yaro Abe

It’s not fair at all that this manga has not been translated into English. So far the only translation is into Chinese. It is such a fantastic food-related manga. A late night diner where the customers are of the late-night sort – strippers, yakuza, celebrities, students, taxi drivers. It’s such a great read and as you can guess from Sunny earlier, I like manga that is more real than fantasy, and this is such a great one. The Japanese TV series is available on Netflix though, so you could check that out to see what it’s about – not the same as reading the manga I know, but until an English translation is available at least!

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent underrated reads

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Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So

Marriage Material – Sathnam Sanghera

This is an epic tale of family, love, and politics, spanning the second half of the twentieth century, and the start of the twenty-first. Told with humour, tenderness and insight, it manages to be both a unique and urgent survey of modern Britain by one of Britain’s most promising young writers, and an ingenious reimagining of a classic work of fiction.

The Sundial – Shirley Jackson

Most people know of Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and of course, her most famous short story, The Lottery. But I would like to add this book, set in an old sinister house, and the occupants within are convinced that the world is coming to an end and that they have to close themselves off from the world. The paranoia! The wit of Jackson! The creepy old house they are in! Just brilliant.

Half a Lifelong Romance – Eileen Chang (my review)

A love affair set in Shanghai. A story of class differences. Beautiful and cinematic. Many know of Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City and Lust, Caution, and I definitely recommend this one too.

Memoirs of a Porcupine – Alain Mabanckou (my review)

I mean, what other book are you going to read that’s narrated by a porcupine?

Harbinger –  Joshua Dysart (Writer), Khari Evans (Artist), Lewis LaRosa (Artist), Ian Hannin (Colourist), Mico Suayan (Cover Artist)

Faith first made her appearance in the Harbinger series, kind of like the X-men. The main character Peter is a powerful psiot who’s being recruited by philanthropist and fellow harbinger, Toyo Harada, to the Harbinger Foundation where he can learn to control his abilities. Of course Harada is not the man he seems. Peter is a flawed character and hard to like, but that’s where Faith comes in, she’s fun and it’s so easy to see why she got her own spin-off. I just adore Faith and while the Harbinger series is a lot more ‘doom and gloom’ than the Faith series, I’m really glad I read it!

 

Master Keaton – Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki, Hokusei Katsushika (Creator)

This manga by Urasawa is such a delight. Keaton is an Indiana Jones type character, but, wait for it, he is an insurance investigator! Ok before you stifle a yawn, the stuff he investigates is quite fascinating, and he’s armed with an archaeology education as well as his experience as a former member of the SAS! Such a great manga series.

The Song Poet – Kao Kalia Yang (my review)

I know I’ve talked about this book a lot, but it really deserves every mention (it still only has 152 ratings on Goodreads!). Go read it!

Genius – by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman (writer), Afua Richardson (artist)

Riveting and action-packed comic.

The Makioka Sisters – Junichiro Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator) (my review)

Why haven’t more people read this Japanese classic? Go read it! And hey, if you’re doing the Read Harder challenge, it fits in the “classic by an author of colour” category!

Flight – Oona Frawley (my review)

This book only has 45 ratings on Goodreads! It is definitely deserving of a wider audience. Set in Ireland in 2004 as a referendum on citizenship approaches, Flight discusses among other things, immigration, citizenship, and is beautifully written.

Have you read any of these books? 

2016 releases I didn’t get to (but plan to)

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Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY plan to)

 

Lab Girl – Hope Jahren

I really need to read more nonfiction and this one has been getting such great reviews from blogger/Litsy/Instagram friends. (I just downloaded the audiobook the other day!)

 

The Border of Paradise – Esme Weijun Wang

I bought this on a rare solo trip into the city in late spring, from the lovely Book Passage at the Ferry Building. I was in the city to pick up my passport, and I had been determined to buy myself a book. I’m not sure why I was looking in the “w” shelves but when I saw this book, I had to buy it, even though I hadn’t heard of it or its author. I sat on a bench, a view of the Bay Bridge, a ridiculously expensive and tiny (but SO good) hot mocha in hand, the glorious California sun shining down. A group of elementary school kids sat at the benches nearby, behaving, eating their lunch, probably on the way to or from the nearby Exploratorium.

 

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

Part of me is always apprehensive about reading a story about loss. I mean, it’s got the word ‘grief’ in the title. As its very first word. So that’s like a warning right there. But hey give me a cover with greys and yellows and that just reels me in.

Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

One of my friends really liked this book so I’m curious. Plus it’s got a restaurant industry setting. And I’m a sucker for foodie books.

The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee

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Because Liberty said so.

The Mothers – Brit Bennett

Another one I already own! Seriously what is up with that…

 

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Because it’s won the hearts of many critics

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race – Jesmyn Ward (ed)

Because in today’s world, this is more important than ever.

In the Country We Love – Diane Guerrero

Another book that is an important one for these tough times ahead.

 

The Obelisk Gate – NK Jemisin

I think I keep hesitating about this one because it’s part of a trilogy and I’m thinking, should I just wait for the third book to come out so I can read it all at one go?

 

Ahhhh…there were so many 2016 books that I never got to! I hope to read these too and not get distracted by the shiny new 2017 publications!

Here Comes the Sun – Nicole Dennis-Benn

Eleven Hours – Pamela Erens

The Art of Waiting – Belle Boggs

Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond

Diverse and speculative fiction debuts I’m looking forward to!

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Top Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For 

(links are to Goodreads)

Temporary People – Deepak Unnikrishnan

Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English. Giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.

The Leavers –  Lisa Ko

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

Hold back the stars – Katie Khan

Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) – Vic James

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

 

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories – Lesley Nneka Arimah

In “Who Will Greet You at Home”, a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, a woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild”, a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In “The Future Looks Good,” three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in “Light,” a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to “fix the equation of a person” – with rippling, unforeseen repercussions.
Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Skyheralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.

Empress of a Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace – Patty Yumi Cottrell

A bleakly comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling, this debut novel has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowles—and it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.

Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays – Durga Chew-Bose

Too Much and Not the Mood is a beautiful and surprising exploration of what it means to be a first-generation, creative young woman working today.

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2017 (the diverse version)

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Books I’m Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

(links are to Goodreads)

The Refugees – Viet Thanh Nguyen (Feb. 7)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Feb. 7)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, trans. by Srinath Perur (Feb. 7)

Exit West – Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead, Mar. 7

Tender – Sofia Samatar (April 11)

Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin, trans. by Bonnie Huie (May 2)

Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (May 9)

The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami, trans. by Allison Markin Powell (June 6)

Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (June 6)

Sorcerer Royal – Zen Cho (July 4) – I realize this isn’t the first half of 2017 but I’m too excited to care.